Saddleback Ski Getaways

ski getaways

Trace a line formed by Maine's State Routes 16, 27, 4, and 142 and you will encircle some of the state's highest mountains. In the southern part of the circle you'll find the long, impressive mass of Saddleback Mountain, from whose summit drop the twisty, wooded trails of Saddleback the ski resort.

Saddleback has enjoyed a much-needed renaissance the past few years as new owners have breathed new life into it. Additional terrain, greatly expanded snowmaking, a new fixed-grip quad, and some intelligent real estate development have smoothed some of Saddleback's rough edges. Those who appreciate the mountain's genuine New England twists and turns needn't worry. The new terrain planned will retain the character of existing trails.

The Longfellow Mountains and the Rangeley Lakes define the rugged character of this part of Maine, and the trails at Saddleback reflect that character. In all, Saddleback offers 60 trails and glades that cover 440 acres and a 2000 foot vertical drop.

Trail difficulty is fairly evenly split among ability levels. Almost every trail bears the name of a fly-fishing lure or a fishing-related name. Gone is the cowboy/Western theme of old with the exception of crusty old Muleskinner. The South Branch Quad and the Sandy Double serve a delightful set of greens on the lower mountain. There are also a couple of choices for beginners higher up, off the Rangelely Double or the Cupsupstic T-Bar.

The intermediate terrain, some of which is tougher than you might expect, tumbles from the summit or nearly so. Most of it is accessible from the Rangeley Double. The blue cruisers twist and turn in interesting ways. While there's plenty of room to carve nice GS turns on these nicely groomed trails, they bear no resemblance to the wide, straight-edged boulevards that have become more common in the past decade.

Saddleback's blacks and double blacks deserve respect. The black diamonds now get more snowmaking coverage but are otherwise unaltered; expect an overall steep pitch with steeper mini-headwalls and plenty of directional changes. The aforementioned Muleskinner and three steep glades boast double diamonds, as do the headwalls that drop you into Warden's Worry, Tight Line, and Supervisor. Saddleback averages almost 17 feet of snow each winter so the glades and natural snow trails are generally well covered. Couple that with 85% snowmaking and you should be able to leave the rock skis at home for most of the season. The heart of the tough terrain can be reached by taking the Rangeley Double and then skiing down to the bottom of the Kennebago T-Bar.

One thing all trails, and indeed the mountain, have in common is great scenic beauty. Whether you are looking at Saddleback from a distance or looking out over the Longfellow Mountains or the Rangelely Lakes, the views are outstanding.

Freeriders just love Saddleback's challenging natural terrain but there's also a formal park on the Wheeler Slope.